Last month, What The Sound chatted with Liam Palmer, the musician behind HD Hausmann. Until we spoke, HD Hausmann was a relatively unpublicized mystery, as Palmer purposefully refrained from promoting his project online. He’s also one of the vocalists and guitarists for English alternative pop band Grass House, and wanted HD Hausmann to be discovered differently than internet-promoted projects of other artists; more like a side project that people could find on their own. Regardless of HD Hausmann not being on many people’s radars, What The Sound had the pleasure of stumbling upon Palmer’s new project. With this interview, we hope that HD Hausmann’s poetic soundscapes will make their way towards the ears of more listeners worldwide. Read on to listen to what Palmer has created thus far, discover his vocal inspiration, and learn about his plans for the future—including a new album due in midsummer.
WTS: How did HD Hausmann form? Is Grass House still playing?
Liam: Yeah, Grass House is still going. The reason I did the Hausmann stuff is because once we’d put the first Grass House album out, we thought we'd take some time to do the next one, and as I had quite a lot of songs already written, I thought I’d put them together on the side and as they were a bit more acoustic based, it made sense to keep them separate. I recorded them quite stripped back on the acoustic guitar to begin with, and then when I got this publishing deal with Danger Village Music Publishing it made sense to make them a little bit more embellished. So, I went into the studio and finished them off properly. I’d already put a couple of songs on SoundCloud, where it was building quite well and they’d started getting some good online press organically, so once the record was finished I decided to get somebody to do press on it, and she did a really good job which pushed it out a little bit more. It was from there more people began to know about it, and though I didn’t intentionally keep myself a secret in relation to it, I preferred not to make it about me but just about the songs and I quite liked the idea of just putting music out without the surrounding noise so people can just care about the music, the other truth is also there was nothing remotely interesting about me. I really believe the fact that everything is born as soon as you find out about it and I thought it would be nice if people could just appreciate that you could listen to music, and you don't need anything else. I did this magazine article where they introduced me and I mentioned the band, and then lots of people quite liked the unveiling, but it was never an intentional secret. I just never said.
WTS: How did Danger Village find out about you?
I had "an island without" on SoundCloud, and then an Australian blog wrote an article about it, and I got an email from Danger Village saying that they were starting this new publishing thing, and they wanted to speak to me about it. They sounded like they were really nice people, and it sounded like they were putting something really cool together so I thought, “of course”.
WTS: So you're continuing with Grass House?
Yes, the next Grass House album is pretty much recorded. We just need to mix it properly. We'll put that out this year, and the second HD Hausmann album is already written and mostly recorded, so I'm going to put that out this year. The Grass House stuff gets a bit more bigger, but the Hausmann stuff I want to be a little bit more low key. If people want to find out about it they can find out, but they’ll have to find it first and for that reason it's never going to take the world by storm, but that is very much ok.
WTS: That's a cool approach. You're doing your own thing and letting it go.
Yeah, completely. Most of my friends don't even know that the HD Hausmann stuff exists. I really wanted to approach it without bugging people to like it, for example when you originally do things and feel you have to post on Facebook about it. I really felt like it would be a nicer idea to take the opposite approach. Even friends that like it had to find it independently, people should be able to hunt things out themselves. I feel like if I tried to push something down someone's throat, it loses its gravitas immediately because it becomes some sort of a desperation game and because of that it’s tainted. A few of my friends have actually found it and then contacted me afterwards saying they really liked it, it's nicer when it comes this way rather than the opposite, which the internet is now famous for, isn't it?
WTS: What does HD Hausmann mean?
Nothing really. I was doing "Hausmann" as a word. I have German/Dutch relatives, so the "Hausmann" was fitting, and then the HD--there was nothing much to it. I liked the idea about creating a name that could be an individual, or it could be a band. It sounds like an individual, but you listen to it as a band, you know. Essentially everything is by a collective, nobody just does something completely independently, people can claim to certain things but everything is influenced by everything else, every single song comes from a place that derives from a direct conversation or a direct link from something somebody else has done so you know, you're always inspired by other things. As you get these waves of creativity, it all comes from somewhere else so this is why I thought I should take responsibility about it being me -- it's everyone.
WTS: Is there any main other individual that makes HD Hausmann music with you?
Yeah. Steven from Grass House does all the mixing and some of the production side of it. I presented him with a lot of stems, and they didn't make a lot of sense, but he tailored them all and pulled them all together into well-structured songs, which is quite an achievement if you heard what the stems were. He figured out which were the good bits and which were the bad bits. You sort of need somebody to do that because it's quite hard to mix your own music when you've heard it too much.
WTS: So you're the vocalist, and I'm guessing you add guitar?
Yeah, so on that first record I did the vocals, the guitar, and a lot of the keyboards and soundscape-y noises as well. The drumming was done by the drummer of Grass House. For the next record I've got my Grandma who's 80 and of German descent singing on it, her German accent means she sounds like Nico which is cool.
WTS: There is a common theme of water in your track titles. What does water have to do with the way you write your music?
I don't know. Well, my dad is a sailor, so there's that, but I quite like the endless possibilities of the ocean. I always liked the idea that in the middle of the ocean somewhere, you could look in any direction, and the view is the same. It's timeless in that sense. It's quite accidental that the song titles are thematic. I dropped ‘in dreams’ from the first record for the reason that it didn't fit in with the theme, but the next record is quite sleep and dream themed so I’ll include it there. These overarching themes are quite nice just for the glue that holds a collection together.
WTS: Who is Ivy Beatrice? That's a beautiful song.
She's my niece. I wrote it as a present for her first Christmas the other year. It was recorded with one mic and an out of tune guitar on Christmas morning in my old room. I wanted to revisit it and add some orchestration, but the guitar was so far out of tune that nothing would stick to it. Incidentally she actually prefers Old Satellites as she sings the line, "Ivy control", instead of, "I be control". Luckily her older brother keeps her faithful to the "poetics" of the original line when in the vicinity.
WTS: When I first heard your music, I heard The National. I'm sure you've heard that comparison before.
Yeah, quite a lot.
WTS: Then one of your songs is very Pink Floyd-y. Usually artists aren't keen to being compared to others, but had you listened to The National in the past?
I hadn't. I heard a couple of their songs, I saw them do Glastonbury, but then I was getting all these suggestions to listen, and it's brilliant. They're really good.
WTS: Is there any artist that really influenced your voice?
Voice-wise, not really, I just stick with what I've got. I like a lot of noise people, like Tim Hecker and Yellow Swans. I do like poetry a lot, that's why I like the spoken side of it. If you look up a recording of Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gently Into The Good Night", the vocal delivery is really good. I'd like to say that is an influence, but I sort of heard it after. For the end of Old Satellites I wanted the vocal to sound like Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld's “Still Smiling”, it’s really close and spoken. That what I was trying to get at, but we didn't have the quality of microphones that they had so it does fall short.
WTS: Because you enjoy poetry, when you write your lyrics, does it come easily to you?
I usually just take notes on my phone as the week goes by, and you build up quite a lot, so when you sit down to write and come up with a melody, and then I look through my notes and see what kind of groups of words fit to it. The words usually start independent to the music. It's written as poetry and then adapted to music.
WTS: Who are three acts that are at the top of your list to see live in concert?
I don't go to too many shows but I'd love to see Angel Olsen live. Other hot live tickets, well... Psychic Markers and Great Ytene are my favourite bands, so I'd just go see them some more.
WTS: What are your HD Hausmann plans for the rest of 2016? And future hopes for HD Hausmann?
We're currently in the midst of recording the next record, which I want to be done in the next couple of months and out to be heard by June time. It'll be similar to the first in that it should be about 7 songs (possibly 8) long and will revolve around a general theme. Whereas the last one was about water this one revolves around sleep. It's a very simple theme but can be explored in many ways, I hope. In the next few weeks I'll be putting live a new song, and we're going to be doing a couple of live dates. After that we'll go for album 3 and see where that takes us.